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What's In A Name?

I'm often asked the reason behind my business name. It took me a good few months to come up with it to be honest; a name that I was really happy with. I wanted catchy, but not gimmicky; discerning, but not boring.

Most of the names I fancied were already being used by other canine businesses, and it became increasingly frustrating to think of something different. I soon realised that I needed it to be more than just a name; I needed it to actually mean something; to send a message; to inspire people; so I had to dig a bit deeper. Why was I doing this? What was I looking to achieve? And then the eureka moment.

The choice for my business name is threefold.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously given my logo, is that it's a simple play on the word 'lead' - as in dog lead. This is by no means the most important reason, but the reason most people associate the name with. (By the way, I always advocate walking by harness; it's just how the design best worked out!)

Secondly, dogs need leadership. Not 'pack' leadership, or 'dominance' (which does not exist in the human canine relationship in any case), but kind, respectful, compassionate, honest, and nurturing guidance; guidance that gives them the skills and opportunities to regulate their own behaviour. Obedience is a non-transferable skill, and I do not teach it. Our dogs are amazing; they are more than capable of thinking for themselves; and in a relationship and environment conducive to this way of learning, they can offer us the behaviour that we wish to see. (Blog posts on this to follow.)

Thirdly, and most importantly, to actually set an example; to spread the message about fear free behaviour modification and training; and to educate and inspire as many people as possible to teach their dogs with kindness.

Behaviourists and trainers using aversive and outdated methods are still too commonplace.

People I know have unwittingly used behaviourists and trainers using inhumane methods; methods that have lasting consequences both physically, and psychologically.

Some people are recommended these 'professionals' by their veterinarian, some of whom (and I must stress that it is only some, and not all) still advocate the use of inhumane and punishing methods to 'teach' dogs, and these people are then putting their trust in these so called 'professionals'.

But just as frequently, I also find that lack of education also drives these referrals to unethical 'professionals'. Many of the veterinarians that I've spoken with say they receive little to no behaviour training as part of their veterinary education; so please, don't always assume that your veterinarian is making the best recommendation; please take the time to do some research.

Some people see 'professionals' on TV, and assume that if they're on the TV, then of course they must be doing right... right? Not always, no.

And some people do take the time to do some research, but are often left none the wiser, given the plethora of contradictory information that exists, in a largely unregulated industry.

It's easy to feel confused if you're not sure what to look for, and for anyone to put their trust in the people they think would know best, but please ask yourself; is it kind? would it hurt or frighten me? and would I want someone do these things to me? Chances are, you wouldn't.

What Do We Mean By Aversive?

An aversive is any unpleasant stimuli that encourages a behaviour change through punishment. Most people have heard of choke collars, shock collars, prong collars, and choose to stay well away from them for obvious reasons; but what about slip leads, half check collars, head halters, muzzles (not ideal but necessary in extenuating circumstances), spray (citronella) collars, blasts of water, horns, pet corrector sprays, jars of pebbles, training discs, bunches of keys, shouting, smacking, jerking the collar, and physical manipulation?

Some of these methods might appear innocuous, but cause just as much fear, pain, and mistrust, as the tools that one might consider to be at the higher end of the aversive spectrum.

Even repeatedly asking a dog to perform a behaviour that he or she cannot perform at that moment in time (for any number of reasons) is aversive.

These tools exacerbate the existing 'problem', lead to the development of further problems (fear, stress, aggression, a bite, depression, total shutdown; amongst others); do not teach a dog the behaviours that we wish to see instead, damage the relationship we have with our dogs, and cause lasting physical and psychological damage.

This is not the way to treat anyone that we're in a relationship with. Would we love, trust, respect or do any favours at all for someone who treated us so unkindly? Absolutely not.

There is never a justification for, or any kind or gentle way to use, any of these tools; not even a little bit; not on any breed, size, shape or 'type' of dog.

Semantics? Or Significant?

'Leash' - a rope, chain, tether or strap tied to an animal; a line for restraining an animal; a line for controlling an animal; something that restricts movement.

'Lead' - to show the way; to take someone somewhere by going with them; to go with someone by holding their hand; to make progress in the development of something.

What Makes A Good Leader?

Good leaders lend themselves to ethical ways of working. They work with honesty and integrity; kindness and compassion. They encourage, nurture, motivate, and inspire those around them to be the best that they can be. They're good listeners, good communicators, problem solvers with creative solutions, and follow best practice. They have a passion for what they do, and they care.

Please; find someone who cares.

Choosing A Behaviourist Or Trainer.

Anyone can call themselves a behaviourist or trainer; even without any training themselves. The behaviour and training industry is largely unregulated, leaving guardians confused as to what to look for.

I never object to anyone questioning my credentials, and neither should any behaviourist or trainer with your dog's welfare truly at heart. We wouldn't entrust the welfare of our four legged family members to someone whose credentials we hadn't previously checked out, so please, don't be afraid to ask how any behaviour or training professional will work with your dog.

Connect with your chosen professional. Call them for a chat, arrange a video call, check out their website and social media, pop in at a training class they might be running (if it doesn't disrupt the class). Get a feel for them as a person. It takes more than a qualification. You cannot teach compassion, kindness, or purpose driven motivation.

Consider asking:

  • what qualifications they hold;

  • what 'tools' and methods they use;

  • what happens if your dog doesn't respond to the training;

  • what professional memberships they hold. Genuinely welfare focused organisations include Pet Professional Guild, International Companion Animal Network, and INTO Dogs. Pet Professional Guild has a member search facility.

Pain, force, and fear, have no place in the rehabilitation or training of dogs.

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